Shaun Bailey who narrowly failed to become MP for Hammersmith and Fulham has unfortunately either allowed himself to be used in what looks like a disgraceful and frankly racist attempt to portray the entire Black community as either serial criminals or in silent collusion with criminality.
Bailey’s comments in the demonising race and crime stories that dominated the weekend papers are disappointing to say the least.
In a damning Telegraph report he said: “The black community has to look
at itself and say that, at the end of the day, these figures suggest we are
heavily – not casually – involved
in violent crime. We are also involved in crime against ourselves – and
we regularly attack each other.”
This statement is factually wrong – the Black community undoubtedly suffer disproportionately
as victims of violent crime as a consequence of living in the UK’s most deprived
neighborhoods, but there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Black communities
are ‘heavily – not casually – involved in violent crime’ .
It is wrong to give the impression that Black communities are responsible for
the majority of serious violent crime either in London or more generally.
Bailey fails to mention the huge amount of work being delivered by faith groups
and organisations who are struggling to provide youth services with very little
support from the statutory or private sector. He speaks as though the Black
community is a silent witness and is therefore sanctioning violent crime; as
though the community has done nothing to address the reality of serious youth
crime, when in fact the reverse is true.
There are hundreds if not thousands of church groups and small voluntary organisations
that have been working away in communities seeking to make a difference. All
are focused on youth deterrent and youth empowerment programmes. The problem
is not lack of effort on the part of Black communities – but a failure of statutory
authorities to sustainably fund such schemes.
The figures quoted in the weekend’s Mail and Telegraph reports can be dismissed
as out of context and largely meaningless. They constitute a deeply insulting
attempt to attribute inherent criminal traits to Black communities.
This follows an increasingly prevalent trend by a section of the right wing
press to resuscitate the old chestnut of ‘race and crime’ led by the likes of
Rod Liddle who was forced
to apologise after a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission for making
similar comments. But this weekend we saw a coordinated attempt to place race
and crime back on the political agenda.
Simon Woolley Director of Operation Black Vote said: “We too readily racialise
crime when Black people are involved and end up with a distorted picture. Although
the charge rates for some criminal acts amongst Black men are high, Black people are more than twice as likely to have their cases dismissed, suggesting unfairness in the system. Furthermore, when we look at the high rates of the same crimes in Glasgow no one seems to mention that the perpetrators are almost all white.
Let’s equitably tackle crime, but let us also focus on the fact that whether
you are Black or white most crimes of this sort are born out of lack of opportunity.”
Richard Garside Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, King’s
College London, critically responded to the articles stating:
“These figures show that the police are more likely to treat men as suspects
compared with women. They are also more likely to treat Black and other minority ethnic men as suspects compared with white men. Just because the police treat Black men as more criminal than white men, it does not mean that they are.
“Only bigots, racists and crackpots claim that Black and minority ethnic
males have a genetic predisposition towards committing violent crime. The real explanation lies in policing practices, and broader social, economic and structural factors.
“The police have a long tradition of targeting Black men for special attention.
Some will have committed crimes. Many others will be entirely innocent, their only crime being that they are male and Black in the wrong place at the wrong
time. Unsurprisingly Black men figure strongly in police data as suspects.
“Given Britain’s long history of racism and imperialism it should not greatly
surprise us that Back and minority ethnic groups are disproportionately members of social classes that have tended to experience greater victimisation and to be the subject of police attention”.
Black communities will need real support in its desperate and on-going attempts to fight crime. These unbalanced and potentially racist articles will only serve to spread real prejudice and ignorance about an already deeply sensitive issue. They have provoked real anger in the Black community.